Reflecting on Rosie Batty - what we can learn from her efforts as an outstanding inclusive leader

Rosie Batty worked tirelessly to raise awareness surrounding domestic violence in Australia

Rosie Batty worked tirelessly to raise awareness surrounding domestic violence in Australia

After 4 years of public leadership, advocacy and inspiration, 2015 Australian of the Year Rosie Batty announced last Friday that she is stepping down from public life. It is with huge admiration, and a feeling of sadness but empathy, that I read this news because I think Rosie Batty is a vital role model of what we need more of in Australia to help create a better, safer and more inclusive world for all of us.

Her inclusive leadership and efforts are in stark contrast to the quality of leadership that we have seen from our self-serving Deputy Prime Minister playing out in Canberra this week.

In my diversity and inclusion work, I often meet well-intentioned managers who ask me what they need to do to help create fairer and more equitable organisations.

Today I’d suggest a great starting point would be looking at how Rosie Batty achieved a system shift, and as part of her strategy, led through inclusive leadership.

Rosie Batty cares and is passionately committed to changing the system to support all Australian carers and their children who experience domestic violence – one of the biggest challenges that undermines a fair go and gender equality in this country and globally. She achieved a mindset shift in the thinking of many Australians from blaming the victim, through educating us to understand that domestic violence was a systemic issue caused by gender inequality and the abuse of power. Working tirelessly with Australians from all walks of life, she put the issue of domestic violence on the map, through this engaging and mobilising people beyond the usual suspects to shift their role in the system.

She achieved this by increasing community awareness, successfully engaging the media who amplified her message, and working with business leaders who listened, learned and led, so were then able to show the way with new policies, protocols and education. Even government leaders then came to the party, all helping to create a groundswell of action in such a short period of time over the past 4 years. Although there is still work to be done to embed these changes, Batty’s efforts made the difference to actually shift peoples’ thinking and put the issues of domestic violence, gender inequality, and power on the map.

Rosie Batty was an inclusive leader. Inclusive leaders understand that embracing gender equity and diversity will help build richer and better performing societies and organisations. With this mindset, it’s then much easier to act, cutting through any backlash with a compelling case for action that mobilises people to follow.

Just imagine how we could change the world for the better if we could all take up our role as an inclusive leader, leading by example in our area of influence (the various subsystems that we operate in) – in our team, department, organisation and social networks.

I’ve found 5 key learnings from analysing Batty’s efforts that I think could help people take action in both organisations and across society:

1.       The power of the numbers

Its critical to have the facts but it’s not enough - the domestic violence statistics had always been shocking, with one woman being killed every week across Australia, but too many of us had blamed the victim and saw the issue was for others to fix.

2.       The power of images & storytelling

Images and storytelling supported by facts enable us to listen and hear domestic violence stories of unfair treatment with our hearts as well as our heads, thereby helping us connect at a human level.

3.       The power of our leadership shadow 

It is vital to align what we say, what we do, what we prioritise, and what gets measured. Through everyone leading with a gender equity and D&I lens, others will soon follow. 

4.       The power of involving everyone on the journey

An inclusive narrative is key and was achieved in Batty’s efforts, by tapping into our Australian cultural value of ‘a fair go,’ and in the domestic violence space, keeping Australian women & children safe.

5.       The power of challenging systemic assumptions and creating new conversations

Through combining facts and personal storytelling you can build engagement. This encourages the creation of a safe space, which provides an opportunity to challenge assumptions so that we can have new conversations about how to solve the complex problems that our workplaces are faced with today.

There’s never been a better time to do this.

We have the research, the facts, the stories and case studies of how to achieve real change. Looking at this issue systemically I have seen organisations identify the patterns, develop hypotheses, and challenge assumptions. They do this in a way that creates new conversations, moving from fear, blame, and shame, to instead share the power of possibility that together we can achieve real change.

Rosie Batty’s influence as an inclusive leader cannot be understated and her presence in the public realm will be missed, but we must ensure we continue to learn from her efforts and continue on this important journey together to create a safer and more inclusive Australia for everyone.

Image via National Library of Australia

Fiona KrautilComment